It has been a decade now and yet Microsoft’s Windows XP still manages to cling on to its title as the most popular computer OS in use, at least according to figures from analytics firm NetApplications.
Though Windows 7 is finally starting to steal users away from XP, it still manages to hold on as the reigning champ.
The bigger question is what made Windows XP have such longevity? While Windows 98 did hold on for a while after it was replaced by the massively superior Windows XP, it didn’t have near the success or popularity that XP has enjoyed.
So what gives? Before I even say it, I’m sure you all have thought it already: Windows Vista. This is certainly a big part of the reason, I’d wager. While I might get beaten to death by angry anti-Vista users out there, I’m going to say that I personally don’t think Vista was bad.
Don’t get me wrong, it had issues (BIG issues), but a lot of this had to do with Vista being pushed onto hardware that had no business (or ability) to run it.
Vista was also victim of a circumstance. Windows XP wasn’t exactly wonderful when it launched either (though, like Vista, it improved vastly with its service packs), but it was still worlds better than the old-school Windows 9x (and ME) variants out there.
Vista probably didn’t have much more issues than XP did at launch, but it didn’t offer anything special enough to make the jump compared to the then-stable Windows XP.
This, combined with the fact that many PCs that had Vista ran dreadfully slow, lead to what is popularly known as “downgrading” back to Windows XP. So, yes, you’ll get no argument from me that this played a role. Still, Windows 7 is a great OS and has been well-received. So why is it just now that users are finally turning away from XP?
Users have constantly been under the impression that they NEED the most recent OS to function. Vista proved this formula wrong for many and so they realized, “Hey, my PC runs great with an old OS”. In fact many machines that are custom-built by techies out there still are being loaded with XP over Windows Vista or 7.
Once we learned that XP could do what we wanted, even though it was old, Microsoft was in trouble. This is somewhat similar to how mobile operating systems like Android and iOS have shown some users, “Hey, I don’t need Windows to get to the internet and play casual games”.
Windows XP’s long-term success also has to do with the fact that pretty much all software and games run just fine on it (though not all, such as the latest version of IE, for example). If it isn’t broken why fix it?
A big part of it is really that XP does everything a user really wants out of a machine. It can run most programs, it is semi-stable as long as you cross your fingers and have anti-virus protection, and it can run a long time without much issue (something that Windows 9x and ME couldn’t do).
It’s life is ending though, and users are finally starting to recognize it. The funny thing is that the timing for Windows 8 couldn’t be worse because I fear that many users will have already jumped ship from XP to Windows 7 months before 8 ever hits the market.
This won’t hurt Microsoft as far as new users (and tablet adopters) are concerned, but it could mean that many of those that upgraded from Windows XP to 7 will likely skip Windows 8 altogether (and maybe even Windows 9, too).
I guess it’s all about what you find important. I have Windows 7 and will likely upgrade to Windows 8. Why? Because I’m a nerd that likes to have the latest and greatest. My in-laws, on the other hand, have an older Dell that runs XP and it is great for their needs. To each their own, I suppose.
Still, you really have to respect XP for holding out this long (or scold Microsoft for failing with Vista). Will Windows 7 (or 8) be as lucky? We’ll see.